Georgetown’s Relay for Life raised approximately $150,000 this year, $50,000 less than in 2012, continuing its steady decline since 2010.
This year’s figure was a far cry from the peak of $400,000 in 2010 and the lowest amount raised since the event first took place at Georgetown in 2007.
With approximately 2,000 attendees Friday, this year’s turnout also represented a slight decline over last year’s.
The all-night celebration was the culmination of year-long fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society.
“Though numbers were not as high as they were last year, that is not a measure of our success,” Relay Co-Chair Dan Silkman (COL ’15) said. “Our success is the experience of the event and the kind of community that this event creates on campus, and so in that sense, we absolutely did succeed.”
The School of Foreign Service Diplomatic Ball coincided with Relay on Friday night, though Silkman denied that the scheduling conflict cut into turnout because the Relay committee incentivized ball attendees to attend the celebration once the ball ended.
“I don’t necessarily think that was the reason,” Silkman said. “Our recruitment efforts were tremendous this year, but sometimes … it’s just not there. It was totally OK and we were very proud to have the number that we did.”
DJ Wise (COL ’13), co-chair of Relay in 2012, said that though there was a slight decline in attendance, those who attended were passionate and stayed later than in previous years.
“Our attendance this year was a little lower than previous years,” Wise said. “But I would say the people that were there were much more involved than some people in the past.”
Wise is also a member of the National Collegiate Advisory Team that supports the American Cancer Society’s more than 500 collegiate relays around the country.
“Right now we’re seeing just a small decline in some of our collegiate events throughout the country, just kind of as a national trend, so I do think that the slight decline in fundraising this year could be a part of the national trend,” Wise said. “But it could also be that this is a different year for Georgetown and, like I said, we have to approach each year differently.”
While only $130,000 had been raised by the eve of the event, organizers were optimistic that this year’s totals could eclipse last year’s because a large proportion of funds are traditionally raised in the final days leading up to the event.
Wise said that the turnover of graduating classes and incoming freshman classes could have impacted the fundraising efforts. Silkman said that every year Relay sees some resistance from students.
“There has been sort of … a trend, we’ve been told, in terms of collegiate Relays having a little bit of a dip,” Silkman said. “Georgetown Relay five years ago raised over $400,000 in a year, so obviously we raised $150,000 and that is significantly lower, and we don’t necessarily know why that is.”
Some have speculated that support for Relay suffers from public disapproval with the American Cancer Society, which has faced criticism for its substantial overhead.
Relay is working on re-envisioning current initiatives and on establishing new ones to counter the decline in fundraising. They are also considering options to change the time and location of the event.
However, according to Silkman, the decline in numbers is not significant for Relay because they do not compare numbers with previous years. He said that, overall, the event was an overwhelming success.
“The way we look at it, as kind of a leadership team, is not necessarily that our numbers were lower than last year, but that at the beginning of this year, we started at zero and that we raised $150,000 to transform the lives of people affected by cancer, so that’s kind of how we view the amount of money that we raise every year,” he said.
All of the money Relay raises goes back to the American Cancer Society. According to Silkman, the American Cancer Society gives a few hundred thousand dollars, more than Georgetown Relay raises, to the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown for research every year.